The city of Berkeley and six Bay Area counties announced Monday that they will be extending shelter-in-place orders through May 31 while also loosening several restrictions from previous orders.
Going into effect May 4, the order was placed by the health officers of six counties in the Bay Area — Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and San Mateo — according to a city of Berkeley press release. The order’s loosened restrictions follow the slowed increase in new cases of COVID-19.
“We are facing a severe economic downturn,” said City Councilmember Kate Harrison. “We know we have to get people back to work and back to a sense of regular life.”
For the city of Berkeley, the order allows for all construction projects to resume as long as the project complies with the safety protocols in the order, according to the press release. The order also states that certain outdoor businesses may resume, excluding restaurants and cafés.
Walking, hiking, biking and running are allowed when in compliance with social distancing and face-covering protocols, according to the order. Recreational activities that encourage gathering and require high-touch equipment, however, are to be limited.
According to Lee Riley, campus infectious diseases and epidemiology professor and chair of the UC Berkeley Division of Infectious Disease and Vaccinology, this is a “good” time to be loosening such restrictions, as the number of new cases has been decreasing and the epidemic in the area appears to have “passed the peak.”
“These new measures to loosen some of the restrictions are reasonable. They appear to be limited to low-risk activities and occupations,” Riley said in an email. “As long as the people affected by these new measures continue to maintain social distancing rules, new transmissions of the coronavirus among them should not occur.”
According to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s spokesperson Stefan Elgstrand, the city wants to continue the work being “effectively” done through the shelter-in-place orders. While the city is slowly beginning to open new sectors, sheltering in place is an effective tool that people need to abide by, Elgstrand added.
Even as loosened restrictions move forward, it is too early to know what the next phase of restrictions will be, according to Elgstrand. He added that the city may loosen further restrictions in the next few weeks as Berkeley health officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez continues to monitor the situation.
According to Riley, loosening restrictions in the future should occur in a “staged manner as planned,” allowing for other low-risk businesses to open, followed by schools.
“If no new infections occur for 3 weeks following loosening of the measures among these low-risk groups, this would indicate that the virus is no longer circulating among them, and this would indicate that loosening the restrictions was safe,” Riley said in an email. “Then we can go to the next stage.”